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Asia-Pa­cific coun­tries fi­nal­ize first re­gional agree­ment to en­able cross-bor­der elec­tronic trade at UN fo­rum

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Bangkok (ESCAP News) -- An un­prece­dented re­gional treaty that will cut trade time and costs in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion was fi­nal­ized at a United Na­tions led fo­rum in Bangkok this week.

The agree­ment, drafted by work­ing groups bring­ing to­gether 27 mem­ber states of the United Na­tions Eco­nomic and So­cial Com­mis­sion for Asia and the Pa­cific (ESCAP), will re­sult in long-term ben­e­fits for the re­gion by pro­mot­ing cross-bor­der pa­per­less trade to make in­ter­na­tional trade more ef­fi­cient and trans­par­ent, while im­prov­ing reg­u­la­tory com­pli­ance.

This re­gional agree­ment adopted by ESCAP’s In­terim In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Steer­ing Group on Cross-Bor­der Pa­per­less Trade is the first of its kind to fo­cus on im­ple­ment­ing ad­vanced trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion mea­sures, par­tic­u­larly to achieve pa­per­less trade across bor­ders. The agree­ment will also con­trib­ute to re­gional eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion and in­te­gra­tion and also en­hance eco­nomic com­pet­i­tive­ness of the re­gion as a whole by pro­vid­ing mo­men­tum for mem­ber states to im­ple­ment ad­vanced trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion mea­sures, par­tic­u­larly pa­per­less sys­tems such as a Sin­gle Win­dow, in con­nec­tion with the im­ple­men­ta­tion the WTO Trade Fa­cil­i­ta­tion Agree­ment.

ESCAP re­search in­di­cates that re­gion-wide im­ple­men­ta­tion of cross bor­der pa­per­less trade in Asia and the Pa­cific could lead to ex­port gains of US $257 bil­lion an­nu­ally. Even par­tial im­ple­men­ta­tion of cross-bor­der pa­per­less trade mea­sures could lead to an ex­port in­crease of US$ 36 bil­lion an­nu­ally, and the time re­quired to ex­port could de­crease by as much as 44 per cent and re­duce costs by up to 31 per cent.

The United Na­tions Un­der-Sec­re­tary General and Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar said: “This re­gional agree­ment is a unique and in­no­va­tive in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal frame­work for cross­bor­der pa­per­less trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion. The re­gional treaty text is both am­bi­tious and prag­matic, so that as many mem­ber states as pos­si­ble can join and ben­e­fit from it, re­gard­less of their cur­rent level of pa­per­less trade devel­op­ment.”

With its spe­cific fo­cus on en­abling elec­tronic trade data and doc­u­ment ex­change, this re­gional frame­work agree­ment is very much com­ple­men­tary tothe WTO Trade Fa­cil­i­ta­tion Agree­ment adopted 2 years ago.

The re­gion has been a leader in trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion and pa­per­less trade in­no­va­tion for the last two decades. Eco­nomic gains from im­ple­ment­ing pa­per­less trade sys­tems have been sig­nif­i­cant. For ex­am­ple, af­ter in­tro­duc­ing the elec­tronic sin­gle win­dow in Sin­ga­pore, the time to process trade doc­u­ments was re­duced from 4 days to 15 min­utes. Many other coun­tries in the re­gion have also been mov­ing to­wards a pa­per­less trade en­vi­ron­ment.

This agree­ment will fa­cil­i­tate the deep­en­ing of pa­per­less trade in Asia-Pa­cific.

The now fi­nal­ized treaty text will be sub­mit­ted for con­sid­er­a­tion at the 72nd ses­sion of the Com­mis­sion in May, and is ex­pected to be open for sig­na­ture and rat­i­fi­ca­tion by Asia-Pa­cific mem­ber States later this year.

The In­terim In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Steer­ing Group on Cross-Bor­der Pa­per­less Trade was es­tab­lished in 2015. It is made up of more than 40 of­fi­cials and ex­perts from over 25 ESCAP mem­ber States, in­clud­ing China, Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion and Re­pub­lic of Korea.

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